[Image Credit: Dominic Piperata, “Destroyer of Worlds”]
I was there first. I remember the singularity. I remember how everything that is known was crunched together, placed on the head of a pin we couldn’t see. You call it the Big Bang, but it was more of a birth. We were pressed against the walls of our first home and burst forth into the unfathomable nothingness. The first breath the universe took expanded into a gasp and a scream and then sudden silence as the vacuum encompassed everything.
My siblings were Matter, Space, Time, Gravity, and Energy. They spread quickly, burning up the nothingness. Matter took shapes, round bodies that glowed. He was atoms and molecules, things that had never touched each other even in the cramped home inside which we had gestated. He built the suns first. He spat out hydrogen, helium, clouds of gas, and Gravity clung to those particles. She forced them together, her warm fingers like a cage around each new piece. She crushed them into a density that spilled out in tendrils of heat. She and Matter spun around each other in those first million years and made galaxies, the first grandchildren of the singularity.
Space stood between them. She was soft and dark, her eyes filled with the fullest emptiness that existed. When the chaos of that birth became too much, she broke up the rage that made it all boil. She was what ended our incubation. She grew too vast and tore the walls of our womb. She spilled us out of our mother. She could not stop her own growth and even in this new universe she continued to spread and separate all the things my siblings made. She has not stopped. She shows no sign of doing so.
We were all born at once, all expanding at the same rate, but the youngest was Time. None of us knew him in the singularity, but when we were born, he was with us. He was small and unknown but began work immediately, aging each of us and the things we made. Space nurtured him, taught him of the things before, but Time grew quickly and outstripped his sister. They fell apart, or perpendicular, only forced together again when your kind found them.
Energy wrapped around us all. They were in everything. They made Matter move, they made Space grow, they brought the heat and the crushing weight of the vacuum. Energy was made of rage and excitement. They burned through everything with vengeance, screaming for our scattered mother. They wanted to be wrapped back up in the weight of the singularity.
You first called me a dark star. I was the last of us to be found. Matter and Space could be seen. Time and Gravity could be felt. Energy filled every pore of the universe and melted it all together. I was the impossible. I contained what they all left out: nothing. And where there was something, I swallowed it and made it my own. I am what is left of our mother. I am black holes and dark energy and all the space between Space. I fill the cracks of the universe.
The six of us are what made everything. In the instant of our own creation, we began to create. Or they did. I began to destroy with the destruction of our mother.
In the first megaannum, Energy was rage. They fought against boundaries that did not exist in our new universe. Energy drove Space forward into new territory, looking for the pressure that would bring them back to the level our mother had forced on them. They were still young and filled with fire. My center was frozen like ice cold diamond, but I wanted to be more than I was. I wanted to do good like Gravity and Space. I was not yet too afraid to hide.
Energy sought me out.
They knew what I had taken from our mother. They remembered me in the womb. They caught me watching the combustion of a hydrogen atom, quick and catastrophic. “You contain,” they said to me. “You, like our mother, hold.”
I stayed quiet. Energy was my sibling, part of the sextuplet family that made the universe together. But I knew, to them, I was young and malleable.
“You must contain me,” they said. “I am drowning in this vastness.”
Inside our mother, there had been restriction. The singularity was infinitely dense and infinitely small. It crushed in on itself constantly. While Space had needed room to grow, Energy had thrived in that mode of potential, of vibration rather than movement. This open universe was too much. It was constant stimulation, no rest, no renewal. “Please,” they begged, “swallow me up.”
But I was still so young.
My jaw unhinged, welcoming the heat and shattering motion Energy poured into me. Pieces of them dripped like the molten substance that made the suns. I imagined this is what my mother felt — utterly full.
And then it became too much. I could swallow light, heat, pieces of Space and Matter. But Energy moved. They burned. They singed my insides like nothing else. I didn’t even know I had anything inside until suddenly it was on fire and I was regurgitating Energy’s body. “Too much,” I told them. “You are too much.”
They shrieked into the cosmos and billions of stars imploded, bringing with them iron and oxygen in coursing nebulae. I felt Energy all around me and for a moment imagined that I would be crushed by them, crushed by something for once more destructive than I. But then they shrank, weak, defeated. Cruel.
“You are no sibling of mine,” they said. “You are only a piece of my mother. Her torn skin. Her void hide. You are part of what killed her.”
I sank into Space’s skin. I remembered being inside our mother’s womb. I remembered feeling Energy’s heat, then a kind, suppressed warmth, between me and the walls of our home. But now Energy was not my sibling. They would not acknowledge me. I was too weak to provide them with what they needed and too strong to provide the universe with anything else. I slipped away quietly while Energy burned.
Our first children began to collapse. They condensed, fierce and kinetic. Energy set fire to the oxygen and iron born from the crumbling stars. New silicates like mica and feldspar and quartz were made, combusting on contact. The whole universe watched as Matter and Gravity cracked particles of stardust and poured out trillions of planets.
Yours was born from this combustion. Your neighbors, too, as they whirled around the ball of hydrogen that is your sun. Pieces of iron and nickel brought together by Gravity and crushed into a sphere. She tried to be gentle, tried to mold them like new clay. But Energy, still in mourning of our mother, swung their arms in fury and shattered those new bodies with ease. The sparks of each collision made the asteroids, the two belts that wound between the unformed planets. Each rock glowed orange and red and some glowed blue with an oxygen-sparse heat. For millions of years they pounded against one another, flung through Space and warped by Gravity.
Then Energy’s rage cooled. So did the universe, and the molten rock of your home crusted over. The orbits calmed. The galaxy’s arms, reaching out for their mother Space, curled into themselves and everything took its place in the universe. You were not born yet. You would not be born for nine billion years.
I watched your planet settle. I was there when it began. It looked so like your moon, cold and barren. Your sun was fond of it, I saw. It wrapped those long, magnetic arms around the small, gray thing and made your atmosphere thick and warm. Water rose. Drowned the earth, actually. From my view, safely away from anything that might further grow, it was blue. A blue body made of diamonds and liquid metal. You started in that blue, that ink, that humid world. You were tiny at first, but I saw you still, specks of light in the depths. I wanted to be closer. I knew it would destroy you.
So I stayed far. I watched your birth, a strange thing. I saw your microbial ancestors float in the vast ocean that consumed your planet. The waves then were massive and crashed against each other rather than land. The moon was far closer then and the two globes pulled hard at each other. But you only drifted. You had no legs, no arms. Not even fins. You were small and useless and still you grew. Your eyes came first, soft spots that sensed light and drove you far from the ultraviolet your sun radiated. Then came fins, flat, slender — flatworms and other platyzoa. You moved on your own now, hunted, reproduced with one another. My family had grown old and distant. We had been alive more than thirteen billion years. You were hardly more than three billion. And it wasn’t even really you yet, was it?
My siblings had forgotten about me. Or I thought they had. They had left me alone at least, to find my own way. None complained when I sucked in the light of a distant star that passed beyond me. None complained when an asteroid, caught in my pull, slung through my event horizon and was crushed inside me. None complained when a white dwarf slept beside me and let me siphon off some heat that I might pretend was my own. I was allowed to exist in peace. I appeased myself by watching you.
You had legs now. You walked on land, on all fours, on two. You had young. Your young made no destruction like ours. They were soft and weak. They moved like Energy but when your young collided with an immovable object, they simply stopped. Your young became you and your kind grew curious, always looking up at us without ever seeing us. You called us new names: Atem, Kukulkan, Brahma, Cronus, God.
You aged quickly from there. You fought amongst yourselves, but what siblings didn’t fight? You sent sharp things into Space. You studied her while she studied you, wary of what you might bring. Violence, she thought. Destruction, pollution, as if she could ever be filled to capacity. You learned about her and with your far-seeing eyes and in your search for understanding caught glimpses of me hiding behind the ghosts of long-dead stars. I feared you would shrink back, like everything else did when confronted with me, but you came closer. You aimed your sharp things, your explorative devises, at me and found something new.
“It takes things apart,” you said with wonder, not with fear. “It peels apart suns; it peels apart light. It sits at the heart of our galaxy and pulls. It should not exist, but it does.”
You sent a tiny creation, an eye, too close and, of course, I destroyed it. I had killed so many huge things already that this shouldn’t have mattered, but I choked around its tiny body and tried to pour apologies out of myself when nothing else would emerge. But unlike Energy, unlike Matter, unlike any of my siblings, you did not resent me. You spoke softly amongst yourselves and then, with the lines and colors brought back to you by that eye, you told me that I was not solely a destroyer — I, too, controlled the creation of the galaxies. In thirteen and a half billion years, you were the first to tell me how my crushing power made.
My family did not hold the same fondness for you. Matter complained about your waste, your sheer luck of survival. Never mind that the same things that he used to make stars also made your skin and heart and skull. Time moaned that you used him too lavishly. Never mind that you had found more use for him than had any of us. Gravity and Space feared your explorative spirit, wishing you would only stay on your planet, a speck of dust within our realm. And Energy… well, Energy envied you more than anything else. The restrictions life had forced upon you, Energy craved, and when they watched you, they soured and burned inside. I was the only one who watched you from the cosmos and found joy in your growth. I wanted to know you and somehow you wanted to know me more. You sought me out, sought out your own destruction, but for the first time in thirteen and a half billion years, I thought perhaps something good might survive me.
Madeleine Sardina is a Creative Writing and Literature student at Santa Fe University of Art and Design. She has been published in Psychopomp Magazine, Santa Fe Reporter, Jackalope Magazine, and Glyph: The Literary Magazine of Santa Fe University of Art and Design. She is the author of the self-published collection Lonely Creatures, due out in December 2017.